Earlier this year I decided to take a culinary trip to scout out a location that I thought I might want to take my family to if it was suitable. Some of you remember seeing the footage of me laying on the ground while a street entertainer juggled machetes over my body. Well, that was Oaxaca, Mexico. As it turned out, I don’t plan on taking my family there for now due to some experiences I had while there but I did quite enjoy the cuisine.
I took an extreme interest in Mexican cuisine and that was what took me to Oaxaca. My neighbor is a pilot and he told me about the world class cuisine for there. Paris and Rome, both culinary meccas, ironically, would not be the same without Mexico. There were three major things taken from Mexico and brought to Europe by the Spanish which changed everything. Tomatoes, Potatoes and chocolate. Think about Italy without tomatoes, Ireland and Germany without potatoes and the Swiss without chocolate. Bye bye pizza, spaghetti, and even Nutella, heaven forbid!! Well, street food in Oaxaca proved fantastic and inexpensive. Tacos, mole, fruit, Squirt soda with chili sauce (no likee), elote on a stick (corn with mayo and chili powder). I must say though the good about the HOT TAMALES I had was that they were HOT. I have been dissecting the tamale for a few years. My uncle, whose family originated in Mexico, picks a day every year and makes dozens of tamales and freezes them like Lynn Wilson burritos, only better. They are awesome!
So, I set out to dissect the tamale and make a great tamale. I will give you a step by step below.
The logic behind the tamale:
First, when people say they don’t like tamales it is usually because there was too much Masa (the corn that surrounds the meat and stuff) and not enough meat and stuff. Simple solution: decrease masa and increase meat and stuff.
Step one: Purchase Masa and corn husks from local mexican food store. Soak the husks in water. It doesn’t seem to matter how long. Just more than 30 minutes so they are pliable for later.
Step two: Preparation of the meat and sauce. This can be done with pork, steak, chicken, leftover turkey, ham, fruit, nutella, chocolate chips, etc.. I like to use pork. I smoke my pork and have even done turkey but I am going to recommend the crock pot. Simply stick your meat in the crock pot with steak seasonings, cilantro chopped (a bunch of it) salt and pepper to taste. Just make it like you would make a roast or something. It just needs to taste good. For spicy add chopped jalepenos or a local hot sauce from a Mexican market.
Step three: Chop up the meat and add more spice if you like.
Step four: Make the Masa. Remember masa is not everyone’s favorite so I make mine taste good (learned on youtube) by using chicken broth instead of water. it is important that whatever you do the water must be warm, not cold. The amounts I cannot give because I do it by feel. I place about half a bag of masa mix in my Bosch mixer and then add the broth. One more key ingredient must be added at this point. Manteca. I shouldn’t tell you that Manteca is Lard because it scares people but I would be lying. If you feel bad, then think about the Cafe Rio you had recently. Yup, those awesome tortillas are awesome because of Lard. It is key! Mix this until you get a mixture that is a little more creamy than cookie dough. It should be a little sticky.
Step five. Form an assembly line. One person applies the masa to the corn husk and passes it to the person next to them who adds the meat and some queso fresco and/or more hot sauce, then passes it to the next person who wraps it with string or yarn. Watch this video at about 21:25 minutes to see how to apply masa. The whole video is good.
I like my masa to be a little more wet because they tend to dry out later if not.
Step Six: Freeze or steam. Place in a steamer right side up so they don’t leak. Steam for 45 minutes or so or about an hour if they are frozen. Let sit for 5 minutes or so and then eat.
Tamales were introduced to America at the 1893 World’s fair. Robert Johnson (one of my fave blues artists wrote this song about them in 1936.